Monday

18th Jan 2021

MEPs seek parliament inquiry into Frontex

  • Frontex executive director Fabrice Leggeri is now under intense scrutiny (Photo: Frontex)

A cross-party group of MEPs are mobilising to launch a formal inquiry into the EU's border agency, Frontex.

Spearheaded by Dutch Green MEP Tineke Strik, the inquiry may also delve into the role of member states and the European Commission.

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Aside from the Greens, Strik said the liberal Renew Europe and the far-left GUE political groups have already backed the idea.

But she first needs the support of at least 25 percent of the assembly's MEPs before making a request to the EU parliament's political leadership.

"I am trying to get support from S&D [socialists] because they are crucial, of course," she said on Wednesday (2 December).

"If they come back to me, 'look we agree', then I am going to try to formulate the mandate, the scope etc with those groups so in order to have their support," she added.

It is not immediately clear when such an inquiry could be launched.

Strik has first to clear the MEP threshold and ask the Conference of Presidents, composed of the political group leaders, for their support.

She mentioned the idea on Tuesday during a hearing with the Frontex's executive-director Fabrice Leggeri.

MEPs had grilled Leggeri over allegations that the EU agency was complicit in illegally forcing migrants and asylum seekers back into Turkey from Greece.

Leggeri denied all those charges, but the socialist group have since demanded his resignation.

Those allegations stem from late October media reports by German magazine Der Spiegel, as well as ARD, Bellingcat and others.

Frontex discussed the allegations at a board meeting on 10 November, called by EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson.

A second meeting was then held on 25 November as a follow up, with a third now scheduled.

But Strik says those meetings are held by Frontex's management board, which is composed of member states' border authority chiefs, and two European Commission officials.

"I don't have a lot of confidence in an outcome of that inquiry," warned Strik, noting independent legal experts were denied access.

"I really think we need to do a thorough investigation and come up with recommendations and one of the recommendations can be start from scratch with a new director," she said.

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Frontex refuses to investigate pushbacks, despite EU demand

The European Commission says Frontex, the EU's border agency, has an obligation to investigate allegations that its vessels participated in illegal pushbacks of migrants off the Greek coast. Asked if it would, Frontex said it rejected the allegations.

Investigation

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The independence of Frontex's monitoring system to make sure people are treated humanely when they are forcibly returned is in question. Efforts by some national authorities are underway to create a more credible parallel system based on transparency and scrutiny.

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EUobserver was tipped off about the investigation by an anonymous source, who said Olaf had raided the offices of Frontex director Fabrice Leggeri and his chef de cabinet in early December given alleged misconduct.

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The European Border and Coast Guard Day is held every May. The event includes movies, football and volleyball matches between Frontex and national border guards, shooting competitions and exercises to detect smugglers.

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